The ‘smell test’

THE ‘SMELL TEST’…. ABC’s “Good Morning America” ran a very good segment yesterday on the significance of President Obama’s 10-day Asia trip, with George Stephanopoulos noting, “It’s hard to overstate India’s importance in the world,” and Jake Tapper adding that the focus of the trip is on “international security, national security, terrorism, jobs, and energy.”

But as the report explained very well, the seriousness of the trip has been largely overlooked by much of the political world because of nonsensical allegations trumped up by the right. The Right-Wing Noise Machine — which includes actual members of Congress, by the way — is basically making two allegations: the trip will cost us $200 million a day, and that 34 U.S. warships will be sent to the region as part of the presidential security. We know the attacks are demonstrably false, and ABC’s report, to its credit, made absolutely clear that the right is lying. Tapper quoted officials from both the Clinton and Bush administrations who said the allegations are “crazy talk.”

But before we move on from this, something NBC News’ Chuck Todd noted yesterday struck me as interesting. On Twitter, Todd said:

Cannot believe reports about bogus cost of president’s trip didn’t pass smell test with so many folks. Ridiculous that it got any traction

Now, I think Todd’s right on the substance, so I don’t want this to come across as criticism. It really is remarkable that manufactured garbage was taken seriously by so many, and it absolutely qualifies as “ridiculous” that idiocy like this managed to get “traction.”

But is it really so hard to believe that this happened? This is just how the right has operated for as long as I can remember, especially during the Clinton years, when it was common for baseless allegations, sometimes placed in obscure foreign outlets, to ricochet from activists to talk radio to partisan media to the White House briefing room to major outlets.

Chuck Todd “cannot believe” this happened? Tragically, I find it both predictable and familiar.

Indeed, consider the past 21 months, and the bogus reports that generated traction, just because the right started a coordinated whine. Remember the freak-out over presidential bowing? Or how about the uproar over President Obama encouraging kids to do well in school (a “controversy” that ended up on the front page of the New York Times)? Or “death panels”? Or “czars”?

It’s “ridiculous” that all kinds of trumped up garbage “gets traction,” but no one should be surprised by it.

On a related note, President Obama’s trip already appears to be paying dividends.

In accords detailed today, the White House said in a statement that Boeing Co. is finalizing a deal worth about $4.1 billion to sell C-17 military aircraft to the Indian government. The firm has also agreed the sale of 30 commercial aircraft to the Indian discount airline SpiceJet Ltd. in an order worth about $2.7 billion, according to the statement.

Obama told a meeting of U.S. and Indian CEOs in Mumbai that they represented “billions of dollars” in orders from U.S. companies and tens of thousands of jobs because of a potential that has “barely been scratched.”

You’ll probably hear quite a bit less about this. Call it a hunch.